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Chapter 11. Higher Laws 
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Post Chapter 11. Higher Laws
Summary

wildness in the woodchuck

hunting and fishing versus games

hunting as an introduction to the forest

flesh against imagination

civilization as preparing one's own food

the faint suggestions of genius

sobriety

satisfaction beyond appitite

self development through goodness

the Kinkul :)

the elevation of John Farmer

http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendenta ... ter11.html
Walden Study Text



Sat Jul 19, 2008 8:18 pm
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I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I love the wild not less than the good. The wildness and adventure that are in fishing still recommended it to me.

Despite the statement of reverence for both lower and higher instincts, it seems that he wants mainly to rise above his animal desires. Maybe it would more accurately reflect his actual thinking to say that the higher and lower instincts each have their proper season. Boyhood is a time when it is natural and healthy to follow the "primitive rank and savage" urges, but he expects that these will be purged away in those who aspire to be philosophers. I think he's probably right about hunting and fishing being the best way (at least for boys) to forge a permanent bond with nature. Today we have something called outdoor education, but I doubt this does as good a job as stalking fish and animals, for all the cruelty involved.
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11.5 I have found repeatedly, of late years, that I cannot fish without falling a little in self-respect. I have tried it again and again. I have skill at it, and, like many of my fellows, a certain instinct for it, which revives from time to time, but always when I have done I feel that it would have been better if I had not fished. I think that I do not mistake. It is a faint intimation, yet so are the first streaks of morning. There is unquestionably this instinct in me which belongs to the lower orders of creation; yet with every year I am less a fisherman, though without more humanity or even wisdom; at present I am no fisherman at all.

This happened to me, too. I was an enthusiastic fisherman for many years, but gradually dropped it as somewhat distasteful. I didn't give up eating fish, though, so I am just letting someone else do the killing. Thoreau never loses his fondness for wildness in the sense of having contact with it and preserving it. He does,though, envision a progression in himself away from wildness toward the higher orders of creation.
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1.6 It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed the body; they should both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. The fruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you. It is not worth the while to live by rich cookery.

This appears to approach the ascetic. Later he says even if the body were to lack nourishment from this pure food, the benefit would be in avoiding an offense to the spirit.
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The wonder is how they, how you and I, can live this slimy, beastly life, eating and drinking.

Veering toward an extreme of ascetism?
Quote:
11.10 Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice.

We would like to, and especially today need to, think otherwise. But every time we get into our cars or eat at a fast-food restaurant wse are making a moral choice.

I have to think that to his readers, this might have been the strangest-sounding chapter in the book.
DWill



Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:31 pm
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Well, what does he mean by 'spiritual'? He is not speaking of a particular religion, such as Buddhism, Krishna, or others who do not eat meat (and most of them don't eat eggs).

He's not speaking of the Jewish and the Muslims who do not eat pork.

If by 'spiritual' he's speaking of a particular religion (and I don't think he is), then I could understand his self-chastisement for hunting and fishing.

Meditators see themselves as being 'spiritual', once they have the hang of it; but unless they have entered a 'religion', they don't have to give up eating meat.



Sun Sep 14, 2008 12:48 am
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Post What does Thoreau mean by "spiritual" ?
Just a heads up. I am going to go re-read "On Civil Disobedience" and "Slavery in Massachusetts," two short, but really fascinating essays of Thoreau's in which he talks about conscience as a "higher law" than the (presumably lower) law of the state. Years ago I took a course where we discussed how this political higher and lower related to his ideas about nature and culture. (These also have a higher and lower, but is it the same, entirely different or do they stack in sequence?) It was pretty unclear. As a result of working at it, though, I ended up designing a class (as a Graduate Teaching Fellow) on "Civil Disobedience Literature." It was interesting how many spiritual texts conflated what is "natural" law(accompanying images of nature like seeds growing into plants, usually big trees) with the "higher" and "spiritual" law of individual conscience. The seed of truth is inside the person and has to be expressed from the inside, out. Any dominance or law imposed outside, in, is a lesser law. (According to one strand of political thought, anyway).

Thoreau had read the Bhagavad-Gita, in which the warrior Arjuna does not want to fight, but Krishna (a supposedly loving god and incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver) urges him that it is his spiritual duty to do so. Thoreau discusses this in "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers." Mohandas K. Gandhi read Thoreau, in turn, and discusses Thoreau's ideas about higher and lower laws, in his "Letter from Yervada Prison" where he was doing time for making salt by hand. (The British had made it illegal to refine salt domestically in India). As I said, I'm going to look this stuff up again and be more precise as soon as I can. What was Thoreau's spirituality? I think he was a "Boston Brahmin." ;-)



Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:02 pm
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Post What does Thoreau mean by "spiritual" ?
Just a heads up. I am going to go re-read "On Civil Disobedience" and "Slavery in Massachusetts," two short, but really fascinating essays of Thoreau's in which he talks about conscience as a "higher law" than the (presumably lower) law of the state. Years ago I took a course where we discussed how this political higher and lower related to his ideas about nature and culture. (These also have a higher and lower, but is it the same, entirely different or do they stack in sequence?) It was pretty unclear. As a result of working at it, though, I ended up designing a class (as a Graduate Teaching Fellow) on "Civil Disobedience Literature." It was interesting how many spiritual texts conflated what is "natural" law(accompanying images of nature like seeds growing into plants, usually big trees) with the "higher" and "spiritual" law of individual conscience. The seed of truth is inside the person and has to be expressed from the inside, out. Any dominance or law imposed outside, in, is a lesser law. (According to one strand of political thought, anyway).

Thoreau had read the Bhagavad-Gita, in which the warrior Arjuna does not want to fight, but Krishna (a supposedly loving god and incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver) urges him that it is his spiritual duty to do so. Thoreau discusses this in "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers." Mohandas K. Gandhi read Thoreau, in turn, and discusses Thoreau's ideas about higher and lower laws, in his "Letter from Yervada Prison" where he was doing time for making salt by hand. (The British had made it illegal to refine salt domestically in India). As I said, I'm going to look this stuff up again and be more precise as soon as I can. What was Thoreau's spirituality? I think he was a "Boston Brahmin." ;-)



Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:03 pm
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Hi Gentle Reader . . . Barnes & Noble discussion group is also doing 'Walden', along with 'Civil Disobedience'.

I haven't done that essay yet, but it would be good to have a separate thread here for it.



Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:19 pm
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Post Re: What does Thoreau mean by "spiritual" ?
GentleReader9 wrote:
Thoreau had read the Bhagavad-Gita, in which the warrior Arjuna does not want to fight, but Krishna (a supposedly loving god and incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver) urges him that it is his spiritual duty to do so. Thoreau discusses this in "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers."

Welcome to the Thoreau discussion. Let us know what you find out in your review; it sounds really interesting. About the Bhagavad-Gita, it seems strange on the face of it that this should be a model for Thoreau, since individual conscience is supposedly what Arjuna is demonstrating in his refusal to fight. The higher law Krishna urges on him apparently trumps his individual conscience. On the face of it, at least.
DWill



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Quote DWill:

Quote:
I was an enthusiastic fisherman for many years, but gradually dropped it as somewhat distasteful.


I do like to spin for Mackerel off our shores. But I always want to cry when I pull the Mackerel out of the sea. They are so rainbow beautiful.

Catching such a fish, from the sea......makes one realise what is sacrificed in order that we eat what is nourishing to us.

I feel the same when I pluck and prepare a wild duck, Mallard, to cook...they are so beautiful. But also...so delicious....

I am not excusing our need to eat meat.....I think we do need it in colder, northern climbs. I was a very contented vegetarian whilst in India.

But, I feel that when I catch my own fish, or prepare my own Mallard, I am appreciating what my meal is costing....a beautiful life.

I think it is very, very wrong to factory farm animals....and to buy and sell chicken, on a plastic tray...that looks as though it has never been an alive thing....but that chicken has been tortured all of its short life.....pigs also. I think it is enough for me, just now....to be careful where my meat is sourced.....that it is raised humanely. That it has lived as natural a life as possible. That it has not be treat as though it were inanimate like a cabbage.

But I am aware that this is just a stage in my own consciousness.


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Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.

Harper Lee - Go set a Watchman


Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:43 am
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Post The Kinkul
Hi Thomas!
No one has asked what the KINKUL is in your introduction to this chapter. I think I'm back as a regular with a new macBook. I would be interested in reading what you think the KINKUL has to do with HDT. TaTa Lawrence



Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:27 am
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Post Re: The Kinkul
Welcome back, Lawrence. I've done everything but shoot off flares to get you back.

Lawrence wrote:
Hi Thomas!
No one has asked what the KINKUL is in your introduction to this chapter. I think I'm back as a regular with a new macBook. I would be interested in reading what you think the KINKUL has to do with HDT.


From The Kinkul Books for Children (of all ages):
Quote:
2. Kinkuls look like this when they are born. (Baby picture.)
3. Their mommies and daddies call them babies but they are not . . . They are Kinkul motels!
4. What makes them a Kinkul motel is the IWWIWWIWI caterpillar.
http://www.booktalk.org/weblog.php?w=8


And here's the Kinkul equivalent in Walden:
Quote:
"We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies" (11.11).


Tom



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Post kinkuls
I don't expect you to agree with me but I think my kinkuls explain our reality better than HDT's worms. He bought into the Epicurian (and other belief systems) dichotomy of body bad spirit good.

My reality says it is not good or evil. Our human condition just is and if we recognize it for what it is we can change how we train our Kinkul motels. Are you really glad I'm back? L



Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:50 pm
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Post Re: kinkuls
Lawrence wrote:
I don't expect you to agree with me but I think my kinkuls explain our reality better than HDT's worms. He bought into the Epicurian (and other belief systems) dichotomy of body bad spirit good.

My reality says it is not good or evil. Our human condition just is and if we recognize it for what it is we can change how we train our Kinkul motels. Are you really glad I'm back? L


Yes, Lawrence. Newton's Third Law: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." No resistance, no traction. Now, whatever makes you think that the ascetic Mr. Thoreau was epicurean?

Tom



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Post Irish Stew
Well Thomas, I couldn't call HDT one thing or another based on his writing. His writing presents thoughts pretty much like my mother made Irish Stew. She threw anything she had handy into the pot. I know I'm blaspheming your beloved but I like him just as I find him too.



Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:29 pm
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Post Re: Irish Stew
Lawrence wrote:
Well Thomas, I couldn't call HDT one thing or another based on his writing. His writing presents thoughts pretty much like my mother made Irish Stew. She threw anything she had handy into the pot. I know I'm blaspheming your beloved but I like him just as I find him too.


Maybe, Lawrence, if you read a little closer you would suddenly see that the disparate parts unite in a single tasty whole -- like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology
-- nice dog picture

I admire people with the right stuff.

Tom



Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:42 pm
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Post Re: kinkuls
Thomas wrote:
Now, whatever makes you think that the ascetic Mr. Thoreau was epicurean?

It appears as though Lawrence is referring to Epicurus's preference of intellectual pleasures over sensual ones. My understanding is that our popular notion of epicureanism is not according to what the man taught.
DWill



Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:37 pm
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